Photography as meditation

To those who have not delved into photography, any relevance to meditation might at first seem vague or even non-existent, since the former seems to be focusing outwards, towards what is happening around the photographer, and the latter to be focusing inwards, towards the meditator's state of being. However, this is only part of the truth and anyone who has spent time with their camera in hand, waiting to capture a memorable moment, knows that meditating and taking photographs have a lot in common.

Much like the meditator, the photographer has to be concentrated, committed, disciplined and determined to master the required technical skills.

Furthermore, the photographer needs to be able to focus his attention steadily and mindfully on what is happening right now. When the photographer is looking through the viewfinder, all that matters is the present moment. There is often a feeling that time has stopped and all thoughts about the past and concerns about the future seem to have vanished. In order to truly see and capture what is happening around him, the photographer is completely separated from anything that exists before and after and is only conscious of the here and now. This state of being, this nothingness, allows him to listen to his intuition and fine-tune his senses and body to be in perfect synchronization with what is happening around him in preparation for the moment he will push the shutter button. In the words of Henri-Cartier Bresson: “To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. […] It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.”

Both during mediation and during taking photos, there is a shift from the feeling of anticipation of things to come to a frame of mind that relates only to the present. In the same way that the meditator is encouraged to observe his breath flow in and out of his body, the photographer observes his surroundings in a state of acute awareness. Even if he is in his most familiar environment, this state of consciousness urges him to explore everything around him with a new sense of curiosity and fascination. He reconnects with the present and begins to see anything that he considered habitual and mundane as unique and remarkable, which leads to a deeper and more sensitive understanding of our life. In this light, even a picture of a flower, rain on the window or light on the curtains can resonate in us and lead us back to a sense of wonder at our everyday existence.

“The world owes a great debt to all those who have, from a state of exceptional awareness, preserved stillness for us to hold.”
Dan Winters